I recently read about a case involving an accident involving an eighteen wheeler that occurred on Chelsea Road in Aberdeen, Maryland. A tractor trailer operated by Kaplan Trucking Company, Inc struck the rear of Kathleen Festerman’s minivan. At trial the truck driver described that he struck the victim’s minivan while he was distracted. A jury in Federal Court in Baltimore awarded the victim in excess of $800,000.00 for her injuries, medical expenses, and lost future earnings.
This Maryland truck accident case highlights an interesting and significant aspect of the law in our state–Maryland’s statutory cap on non-economic damages. Md. Code Ann., Cts. and Jud. Proc. Art. Section 11-108. Under Maryland law, ‘non-economic damages’ refers to money received for personal injury, pain and suffering, or physical impairment or disfigurement. Practically, this means that individuals like you and me who are injured due to the carelessness, recklessness or negligence of others are limited in the amount of money we can receive for our injuries. Maryland’s limits on non-economic damages unequally restrict the ability of severely injured victims to receive full payment for the harm they suffered.
For example, non-economic damages are capped at $710,000.00 for any injuries sustained after October 1, 2008.
$700,000 in damages may seem like a lot of money, but think about the reality that the cap affects the most seriously injured in the most severe manner. In other words, a 19 year old victim who sustains a crippling injury, such as paralysis, or a brain injury in this type of truck accident would not be able to receive more than $710,000.00 for his or her injuries, even if those injuries disabled the individual for the next 60 years, and deprived the victim of basic enjoyments.
On the other hand, someone who sustains a less severe injury in a trucking case would not likely have their recovery affected by Maryland’s cap on damages.
It seems to me that statutory caps on non-economic damages disproportionately penalize the most severely injured victims of personal injury cases here in Maryland. Other states, including Illinois, Georgia, and Oregon have eliminating their damages caps, stating that they were unconstitutional. Perhaps Maryland should do the same?